March 15, 2015

Finest Hour 159, Summer 2013

Page 52

Richard Marsh (“Churchill and Flandin,” FH 158: 22) sent Dr. Shelden and us a letter in his collection from Churchill to H.H. Asquith dated 14 August 1908, which is relevant to the alleged romance between Violet Asquith and Churchill.

WSC begins by thanking Asquith for his congratulations on his engagement: “I was sure that as an old friend of my father’s & a kind one to me you would rejoice in my great happiness & good fortune, which has broken upon me with such sudden wonder.” The letter then clearly reveals that Clementine as well as Winston had been invited to Slains Castle by the Asquiths: “Clementine has to buy all sorts of important things, so that she cannot accept your pleasant invitation. But I will keep my tryst & propose to travel North by the night train of Tuesday.”

Mr. Marsh writes: “It is interesting that Churchill used the word ‘tryst’ in describing his upcoming visit, although I am sure that he was not describing a meeting of lovers. Churchill ends interestingly: “Please thank Mrs. Asquith & Miss Violet for including themselves as I am sure they did in your congratulations.”


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Who said, “The first time you meet Winston you see all his faults, and the rest of your life you spend discovering his virtues”? Shelden and others attribute this to Edith, First Countess of Lytton (1841-1936). In fact it was said by her daughter-in-law Pamela, Second Countess of Lytton (1874-1971), Churchill’s early love, to Eddie Marsh, who had asked her whether he should be WSC’s private secretary.

Marsh’s biographer, Christopher Hassall, caused the confusion by identifying Edith as the speaker (Edward Marsh, 1959, 120). But Marsh himself (A Number of People, 1939, 49), identified the speaker as Pamela: “I betook myself to Lady Lytton, who was a great friend of his as well as of mine….Her answer was one of the nicest things that can ever have been said about anybody.”

Both Marsh and Hassall agree that it was Pamela who urged Churchill to hire Marsh, at a party given by Lady Granby on 14 December 1905. Marsh’s text refers only to “Lady Lytton”; but he goes on to identify this Lady Lytton as the selfsame Pamela who had urged Churchill to hire him—and his index entry names Pamela, not Edith, as the “great friend” in question.

There were numerous letters and meetings between Eddie Marsh and Pamela, who were contemporaries, but not Eddie and Edith, who died three years before Marsh published his memoir, in which Marsh does not refer to “the late” Lady Lytton. The evidence is unequivocal. —Editor, FH 131: 32

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